Thursday, July 30, 2020

Requiescat in Pace - Olivia de Havilland

The incomparable Olivia de Havilland has exited this world after celebrating her 104th birthday, leaving us breathless, as usual, with the sum total of her talent, her elegance, her grace, and an unusual quality of self-knowing. Among her films we've discussed here are The Heiress (1949), for which she won one of her two Oscars and was made in the period where she did her strongest work; The Strawberry Blonde (1941), one of her last pretty young ingenue roles before her court fight with Warner Bros. resulting in her win and "the de Havilland decision"; and A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), a lovely example of her early work, so mature, which brought her to Hollywood as a teenager.

Of all the greats we've lost this year, her career stretches farthest back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Sometimes interviewers ask stars if they watch their old movies, but I wonder if someone like Olivia de Havilland, who had retired happily to France many years ago, only dabbling in TV in the final years of her career, watched any classic films at all -- and especially, did she enjoy recalling former colleagues in the industry.  For someone who has lived more than a century, one outlives almost all relationships.  Someone in the entertainment business has many more people passing through their lives than most of us do in our occupations.  We may number our working acquaintances in the tens; someone like Olivia must have known hundreds.  Did she ever watch a film and smile at being reminded of someone she knew?

For all her class and elegance, I like to think of her humor and this clip from Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) doing a jitterbug parody with Ida Lupino, and George Tobias, who despite being a character player (usually of simpletons), gets the starring role of squiring the two hepcats. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Bud and Lou on your home projector...

More on Castle Films this week...and an interesting variation.  Midget Car Maniacs (1947), a short subject comedy starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, could be purchased on 16mm or 8mm by Castle Films for your home viewing pleasure on the projector you kept on the shelf in the living room closet.  It was, I believe, pieced together at least in part from discarded sequences from another film or films.  

You'll recognize some old friends in the cast: Nat Pendleton, Don Beddoe, Milburn Stone, and others.

The Castle Films version is silent, shown with titles.  There was also a sound version for the theaters, and eventually, television.  You can see both versions on YouTube.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Castle films at home

As this ad from 1941 reminds us, long before there was the VHS cassette, serious film fans had those 16-mm reels of "6 great cartoons to select from"..."each a great thrill on your own screen!"  

So get out your projector, put up that screen, and make the popcorn.  "Let's movie," as they say on TCM.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Requiescat in pace - Carl Reiner

Carl Reiner will be remembered for his long career and incredible talent, for being a mensch, for being a pioneer of early television.  For just a moment, let's remember a scene from those early years and the man who came into our living rooms as a friend we loved and looked forward to seeing.  Here from the fantastic Your Show of Shows, he provides support to Sid Caesar in one of the funniest sketches ever performed on television.  How fitting that it is also a parody of television. From April 3, 1954...

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